When Union spies steal an engineer's beloved locomotive, he pursues it single-handedly and straight through enemy lines.

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Complete credited cast:
Glen Cavender ...
Frederick Vroom ...
Charles Henry Smith ...
Annabelle's Father (as Charles Smith)
Frank Barnes ...
Joe Keaton ...
Union General
Union General
Tom Nawn ...
Union General


Johnnie loves his train ("The General") and Annabelle Lee. When the Civil War begins he is turned down for service because he's more valuable as an engineer. Annabelle thinks it's because he's a coward. Union spies capture The General with Annabelle on board. Johnnie must rescue both his loves. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The tale of a lad, a lass and a locomotive. (Trade paper ad). See more »


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

24 February 1927 (France)  »

Also Known As:

General  »

Box Office


$750,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (1982) | (1962) | (2003 alternate) |

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Buster Keaton always said that this was his favorite movie. See more »


When Johnnie is chasing the General in the Texas, during most of the chase the engine has a sliding hatch in the cab roof, but just before Johnnie abandons the Texas, the roof changes to a smooth roof without a hatch, and slightly different shape. See more »


[first lines]
Annabelle's brother: Fort Sumter has been fired upon.
Mr. Lee: Then the war is here.
Annabelle's brother: Yes, dad, and I'm going to be one of the first to enlist.
See more »


Featured in The Great Chase (1962) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Wonderful Humor, Action, & Melodrama
13 July 2001 | by (Ohio) – See all my reviews

One of the great masterpieces of cinema, Buster Keaton's "The General" combines inventive humor with terrific action and fine melodrama, all beautifully and carefully planned and photographed. It is filled with subtle and wonderful details that make it well worth devoting your full attention to watching. As an extra bonus, it offers a fascinating look at the Civil War era, with many realistic details, inspired by a historical incident.

After a short opening sequence, the movie divides nicely into two halves. Johnny (Keaton) is a railway engineer, turned down in his attempts to enlist in the Confederate Army and subsequently rejected by his girl. Continuing with the railroad, one day his locomotive is stolen by Union spies, who also kidnap his girl. Johnny first chases the engine into Union territory to recapture it, and then is himself chased by the Northern Army as he attempts to return home. Both chases are filled with excitement and manic fun, with some breathtaking stunts by Keaton thrown in. It all leads up to a dramatic and memorable climax that includes many ironic and suggestive touches.

Keaton is at his best, with the story offering him a perfect showcase for his many talents. His slapstick and acrobatic skills are given free rein, and his character's stoic perseverance is a fine complement to the frantic action.

This belongs near the top of any list of great films, a classic worth watching and re-watching.

27 of 35 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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